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Tharinger reluctantly receives $525K for Dungeness home

Clallam County Commissioner Steve Tharinger soon will receive $525,000 for a home and business that he doesn't want to sell.

He'd rather keep the house and shop that he owns at 2747 Towne Road in Dungeness with his wife, Yvonne Yakota.

But Tharinger in a sense is a victim of the salmon habitat restoration effort he so long has championed as a county commissioner, a member of the Dungeness River Management Team and a member of the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

In this case, his home must make way to relocate a dike and let the river flow more freely to Dungeness Bay.

His co-commissioners, Mike Chapman and Mike Doherty, approved the deal on Tuesday. A similar buyout was made from Jeffrey Howat.

Howat's property was separated from Tharinger's by a large tract owned by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Tharinger was absent from the meeting, just as he has recused himself from other county and state sessions about the projects known as the Lower Dungeness River Floodplain Acquisition and the Lower Dungeness River Dike Setbacks.

Originally, the dike west of the river wasn't scheduled to be moved, so Tharinger's property wouldn't have been involved.

When the owner where the east dike would be moved declined to sell, however, Tharinger was faced with a dilemma:

_ Should he refuse to sell and, in his words, look like a hypocrite regarding salmon recovery?

_ Should he sell and possibly appear to profit from the transaction?

He chose the latter.

The appraisal of his property was done independently and double-checked, said County Administrator Jim Jones.

Clallam County will take title to the tract, although Chapman said he wished that Fish and Wildlife - which owns the land adjacent to Tharinger's - would be the buyer, further separating Tharinger from the transaction.

"That's the sticky part," Chapman said.

Just when the dike will be moved remains undetermined.

The floodplain acquisition has resulted in the demolition or removal of houses at Rivers End, part of a 12-year scheme to re-establish the Dungeness channel in its lower 2.6 miles.

The project has been the subject of more than 25 major plans and studies that stressed three goals:

_ Preventing the loss of life and property during floods.

_ Ensuring an adequate clean water supply.

_ Restoring habitat for Puget Sound chinook salmon, summer chum, steelhead and bull trout.

The project also will open public access to the Dungeness estuary.

In other action Tuesday, county commissioners appointed Dave Cameron and Robert Clark, both of Sequim, to the advisory Agricultural Commission.

They named Robert Filip of Sequim to the Board of Equalization that hears property owners' appeals of their assessed evaluations.

On Monday, they heard a report from County Engineer Ross Tyler regarding forthcoming improvements to Old Olympic Highway from Spring Road to Gunn Road.

Because it would cost an extra $400,000 to relocate Public Utility District high-voltage transmission lines that stand north of the road, the highway will be relocated slightly south to accommodate its 12-foot lanes, 8-foot shoulders and adjacent "clear zone" from which fixed objects should be removed.

The realignment will necessitate cutting down a line of conifers, which Tyler said would be a mixed curse.

"I hate to see them go," he said, "but this becomes a high-accident area because it stays shaded [and therefore icy].

"That's where you're going to crash. I've seen many crashes there."

The new pavement also will cut close to the Blue Mountain Animal Clinic, 2972 Old Olympic Highway, and the Peninsula Evangelical Friends Church at the intersection of the highway and North Barr Road.

Design of the improved road is expected to be completed this year, with construction slated for 2010, Tyler said.



Jim Casey can be reached at editor@sequimgazette.com.



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